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Buryat, Russian

Tibetan Buddhism ("Lamaism"), Shamanism.


The Buryats or Buriyads, numbering approximately 436,000, are the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia and are mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia. They are the northernmost major Mongol group.[1]

Buryats share many customs with Mongolians, including nomadic herding and erecting yurts for shelter. Today, the majority of Buryats live in and around Ulan-Ude, the capital of the republic, although many live more traditionally in the countryside. They speak in a dialect of Mongolian language called Buryat.[2]



The name "Buriyat" is mentioned as one of the forest people for the first time in The Secret History of the Mongols (possibly 1240).[3] It says Jochi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan, subjugated the Buryats or Buriats in 1207.[4] The Buryats lived along the Angara River and its tributaries at this time. Meanwhile, their component, Barga, appeared both west of Baikal and in northern Buryatia's Barguzin valley. Linked also to the Bargas were the Khori-Tumad along the Arig River in eastern Khövsgöl Province and the Angara.[5] A Tumad rebellion broke out in 1217, when Genghis Khan allowed his viceroy to seize 30 Tumad maidens. Genghis Khan's commander Dorbei the Fierce of the Dörbeds smashed them in response. During the first half years of the Mongolian Northern Yuan (1368–1635), the Buryats and Barga joined the Four Oirats' alliance against the Great Khans. Some of them moved south, particularly Mongolia proper and modern Inner Mongolia. When the Russians expanded into Transbaikalia (eastern Siberia) in 1609, the Cossacks found only a small core of tribal groups speaking a Mongol dialect called Buryat and paying tribute to the Khalkhas.[6] However, they were powerful enough to compel the Ket and Samoyed peoples on the Kan and the Evenks on the lower Angara to pay tribute. The ancestors of most modern Buryats were speaking a variety of Turkic-Tungusic dialects at that time.[7] In addition to genuine Buryat-Mongolian tribes (Bul(a)gad, Khori, Ekhired, Khongoodor) that merged with the Buryats, the Buryats also assimilated other groups, including some Oirats, Khalkha Mongols, Tungus (Evenks) and others. The Khori-Barga had migrated out of the Barguzin eastward to the lands between the Greater Khingan and the Argun. Around 1594 most of them fled back to the Aga and Nerchinsk in order to escape subjection by the Daurs. The territory and people were annexed to the Russian state by treaties in 1689 and 1728, when the territories on both the sides of Lake Baikal were separated from Mongolia. Consolidation of modern Buryat tribes and groups took place under the conditions of the Russian state. From the middle of the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the Buryat population increased from 27,700 to 300,000.[8]

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